Braces at 37

Editor’s note: I did not have braces as many did during high school (or junior high, or elementary school). Instead, I have been graced with them at 37 (nearly 38).

I sat in the office — this is just over a week ago — of my orthodontist with a mixture of excitement and resignation, which is a lot easier to pull off than it sounds. Excitement because I was going to get braces and finally see what the fuss was about, and it also presents an opportunity for colored bands to celebrate holidays. (October’s colors will be orange and black). Resigned because I knew that, aside from the opportunity to accessorize the little metal boxes, I’d be having said little metal boxes on my bottom teeth for about nine months.

The part that I didn’t realize until after they were cemented, one by one, to my lower teeth, is this: your mouth was not made for bits of metal to be hanging out there.

My first night I attempted to eat a salad and discovered you can’t really do that with braces, or at least not for the first week. The little metal bits rub the inside of your mouth in such a way as to give you a very good idea of what it’s like to chew on razor blades; now 8 days later the cuts and ulcerations are almost gone. They give you this little box of wax for you to attach to the exterior of your braces (to mollify your mouth, presumably) which makes you feel like a bulldog or some other jowly creature. My diet became pretty liquid, pretty fast.

Let the record state I’m not really complaining about that, because it totally went hand in hand with my recent weight loss, and I’m now ten pounds down (yeah!).

Other unforeseen things: I have acquired, if I do not take care to enunciate properly, a lisp. This was hammered home on Monday, day 4 of braces, where I had a presentation for several people who have “C” or “VP” in their titles. The job was to let them know about Really Cool Project # 432*, because yes in my job there are fully that many projects that are cool.  It totally sucks the cool out of your project when you lisp, though.

Finally, there is the little matter of dental hygiene. I’m not suggesting I didn’t have it, but the short of it is with braces you pretty much need to brush your teeth after every food event, which, for a grazer like me, means you become one with your Sonicare.

Braces: mildly annoying, purportedly useful, and fascinating accessory.

 

*Really cool project #431 released on Wednesday. You can get special mobile-only deals on Hotels.com! 🙂

Multitasking

I remember explaining, sometime in the last few months, that I enjoy multitasking and that I’m good at it. The person I patiently explained this to replied that I was likely some sort of dopamine junkie, and, citing a New York Times article, suggested I wasn’t as multitasking as I thought I was.

Having read the original study that the article was based on — don’t get me wrong, I like the NYT as much as anyone, even if their paywall can be rendered #fail by a 14 year old and his 4 lines of code — I both agree and disagree.

Yes, the “high” one gets from multitasking is a result of dopamine and the checklist mentality. You can also get other hormonal highs from equally “productive” sources: sex (or a hug, if you’re female) releases oxytocin (not oxycontin, that you have to get from your doctor). Exercise releases endorphins. Hormones aren’t really bad things, it’s the regulating of them that is required.

Having sensitivity to caffeine and a disinclination to consume enough alcohol to render me useless, as well as the physical limitation on how many hugs I will allow my personal space bubble to accommodate, dopamine is all I’ve got left. I can release it by shopping, or playing online scrabble, or working.

A lot.

Lately, however, I’ve been privileged (if that’s the word) to work with others who *cannot* multitask effectively. These folks do not necessarily work in my company — or even in my field, technically — but they are folks I have to deal with on a semiregular basis for the various projects I have on my Very Large Checklist. It has brought to my attention the severe need for Multitasking Etiquette, which I hereby present to you in rough draft.

1. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, you may pause to take notes and so forth. It’s a good idea to put yourself on MUTE when you do — or when you are chewing, or swallowing, or chatting with your neighbor, etc. Putting the conference call on HOLD, however, results in us all hearing your hold music. Please don’t do that. We’ll send you notes if you’re that busy.

2. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, and you missed something due to multitasking, that all you have to do is say, “Sorry, I missed that. Can you rephrase that?”. We know you missed it, that’s fine, and you give us the option to rephrase. Lovely. Do not, however, say, “Um, what do you mean, exactly?” It leaves us in the position of guessing that you actually missed it, but somehow you’re blaming us.

3. It’s really, really rude to paraphrase in explanation for someone else. That is something they should be able to do for themselves.

4. Also topping the rude list? Arriving to the con call 5-10 minutes late and asking everyone to check in and/or rehash what was covered. Double rude if you’re the one who called the meeting.

5. Sending an email reply one week TO THE DAY after the due date and then wondering why your feedback wasn’t used and/or taken into account? Not ok.

6. Asking people to work the weekend and/or check in on their holiday, and then not doing so, PARTICULARLY if you’re on the same level as they are, is not ok.

7. Asking people to work the weekend and then extending the deadline but not telling anyone until Monday morning is also poor form.

8. Sending multiple email missives about the project in a given day, each with updates over the last one, instead of one nice coherent email (per day, or even per TWO days), sucks.

9. Sending meeting announcements for when my calendar already has an appointment also sucks. There’s space there and I’m available from 6am-10pm PDT. You should be able to find *something*.

10. It’s good to have an agenda. It is even better if you follow it.

Review

Today was my son’s “mid year review” — at school.

There is something nerve-wracking about sitting down and hearing someone evaluate your child. You evaluate your child on a regular basis — yes, you do, it may not be on the quality of their schoolwork, but you do — but it’s different when someone else does it. It’s different when you are evaluated by someone who hasn’t known you your whole life and only in a certain silo of qualities and accomplishments.

Let the record state: I think my son’s teacher is awesome. I think she does a great job. I think she has her hands full with her class load, and I think that if you are reading this and you’re in the Lake Washington School District you should totally vote YES on the levy measure on the February 8th ballot.

As we went through the report card and talked about challenges and how we’d address them, it occurs to me that my annual review is coming up, too. Next Tuesday I will be evaluated by someone who hasn’t known me my whole life on a certain silo of my qualities and accomplishments.

I’m going to have that nightmare about being at school without having studied again, right?

Pajama Party

Today at work, I gathered the fruits of my labor. That labor was a hastily one-week planned pajama party.

OK, let me back up.

A week ago yesterday, I was severely inebriated. That’s ok, because I was severely inebriated with 2000 other people at the XS club at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. It was fantastic — flowing booze, good music, yes I did find myself dancing on a table. The fact that I originally planned to come in, make a one-or-two drink round, and leave was lost halfway through drink one: some Work Fun events are more Work than Fun, this was not one of them. Everyone shucked off the stress of the previous days/weeks/months and kicked in to have fun.

So partway through the fun an idea that Alison* (person at work, not Ali of Doug and Ali) came up with: wouldn’t it be great to come to work in our PJ’s. I got sign off from the boss, and got sign off from a few other VP’s. And then continued to enjoy myself.

Hungover I flew home on Friday.

On Saturday I emailed a few more work folks to ensure we weren’t expecting clients on the Chosen Day.

On Sunday I emailed the last few people and got sign-off.

On Monday I emailed the entire floor and gave them the prospect: come to work in your jammies. Get a doughnut (From Top Pot — Thank You Top Pot!). Give a kid a gift from the HopeLink tree: the day after the company Holiday party.

Today we had twelve people bring in gifts, and another 20+ provide what amounted to substantial cash for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have got much of anything for the holiday. We had slightly more than that show up in jammies or sweats. And we left about a dozen doughnuts behind (apparently the excesses of last night got to some).  Next year: fewer doughnuts, and maybe adopt a family instead of kids off of the tree. Or maybe both. All I know is the planning will be better done than one-week and starting at a massive party.

It’s weird to come home and not have to change *out* of my clothes and *into* PJ’s.

Culture!

Greetings from the dining room at McCaw Hall, where I am without a doubt the youngest person here. I have all my own teeth.

Flying solo as I am this evening it affords me the ability to play with my phone at the dinner table without offending anyone. This in turn offers camouflage whereby I can pretend I am at a loss for what to phone-type next and let my eyes wander and review my dining “companions”:
1. I am not the only Dona sola here: there are two others, but they are infinitely more secure because the are not fiddling with their phones.
2. There are a good deal of elderly couples… One and all are dressed nicely and appear to be having those comfortable conversations that long term couples do. (“Well I’m not sure I should have a martini… There are *two* intermissions.” “Say what was that martini we had the other day… Yes you do know what I’m talking about it was at that place… Of course you were there…”)
3. There is too the very rare four top.

Pardon the pause… You may not have noticed it but I had to load the WordPress app for the iPhone. Much better.

At any rate I am halfway through dinner and the dining room is quite full now, lively and loud. I am fighting the urge to join a conversation to my right. The couple next to me is wonderful: not cloying, at ease, happy and laid back. They are now apparently celebrating being debt free and she knows the origins of pasta puttanesca.

I am also now, in this new crowd, much more cheerfully anonymous.

More at the first intermission.

Tail End of a Wagon

Remember that part in Indiana Jones, where he’s being dragged behind the truck, through gravelly road, hanging on by his whip?

Harrison Ford actually did that stunt, although he was given extra clothing and they pre-dug a ditch for him to “ride” in. Somehow gravel down the front of your shirt at however many miles per hour doesn’t sound like a good idea, though.

I feel like that lately. Halloween came and went way too quickly, and I am inundated with Christmas decorations throughout Target and any other retail outlet (except, comfortingly, Trader Joes). Folks, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

At work, the machine is inexorably charging to the end of the year, an amalgamation of metrics, goals, initiatives, and projects, culminating in an end-of-year event in Las Vegas in which I must present (both personally and professionally). At school, the first progress reports have come out but the schooling gets harder, the volume of new things increases and the personal responsibility the boy must have increases — making the winter break a fantastical respite not only for the holidays (for he celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas) but for the break from seven hours of daily seating and applying oneself. At home, we are contending with the recent passing of a beloved grand (and great grand)mother as well as the imminent passing of the family pooch; it’s very unlikely she’ll make it to her 10th birthday (Christmas Eve).

Let’s not even get into my sporadic ability to get to the gym — four times last week, but it’s becoming a real project to get it in this week.

I’m attempting to slow down the truck — or at least add speed bumps — by putting new and interesting things here and there. For example, Thursday evening I am going to the Pacific Northwest Ballet to see the All Tharp programme. I have no idea if I’ll like it, the idea hit while listening to Twyla Tharp being interviewed on KUOW’s Weekday with Marcie Sillman.  I have a front-row, far right of stage seat. I will be able to see the dancers up close and personally, but at a hyper angle.

I’ve gone through my annual list of things I planned to do and learn this year — I still do not know how to drive a stick shift, I still do not know how to ski or snowboard (I think I’ll change that to snowshoeing or cross-country ski).  I’m not sure if adding these things is going to slow the wagon down enough for me to get on, or speed it up so I fall off.

Either way, I will still be contending with accelerated gravel a bit longer.

Twit

Twitter is my modern D&D dice: I play with it here and there when I need reassurance that there are other geeks like me, and table it when I get too busy with grown up stuff.

Of late there have been some hashtag games on Twitter that I’ve been tempted to participate in, most notably #moviesinmypants and #thingsIhaveincommonwithWesleyCrusher (courtesy of @wilw aka Wil Wheaton, who is actually much cooler than Wesley Crusher). The problem is, my Twitter is attached to my Facebook, and my Facebook is attached to people at the office, and while I don’t believe that I give an aura of someone excruciatingly professional and remote I don’t know how serious I’ll be taken if I do things like tweet*:

The Ring in My Pants #moviesinmypants

or

I took myself way too seriously as a teenager #thingsIhaveincommonwithWesleyCrusher

Twitter itself has undergone an evolution in purpose and function since it began. It was first 140 character microblogging– something to say about your day or your opinions or your orifices or your cat, that sort of thing. With the accessibility of hashtags, trending topics, and increased user base, it’s become a collective gumwall for people to post upon. Much like the 1970’s Kilroy was Here, you can follow people you don’t know and watch them as they post to people they don’t know. I personally have sent tweets directed at Leonard Nimoy, Nasa, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Eddie Izzard, and Simon Pegg. I can *guarantee you* that none of them has read those tweets, but somehow knowing I sent them makes me feel better. I think.

I will say this: I adopted FourSquare recently and abandoned it just as blithely; an application by stalkers for stalkers has limited relevance in my post-SayAnything years. I would have a difficult time, however, giving up my twitter feed: it serves as endless bite-size entertainment, like leftover Halloween candy.

Which goes straight to my hips.

*Why is the action of using Twitter indicated as “to tweet”? Shouldn’t it be “to twit”? Or is that too honest?

Trick or Treat!

Halloween has recently had to tie with Thanksgiving for my personal favorite holiday, but up until then was the absolute fave. ‘Tis awesome. You get to dress up as someone else, you get to eat candy, you get to give other children candy and hand them back to their parents. And you get to do things to your front yard that involve bones and dead plants and it looks good.

This year I optioned not to do my traditional Halloween party — the personal party will be at Maris Farms in their Haunted Woods, and that’s all good and I will blather about that maybe after I actually go. To get my costume fetish on, though, I participated in our floor’s Halloween Contests.

That’s right. FLOOR. As in some 70-odd people on one of the 15 floors of Expedia got together under a common goal: beat the pants off of the other 14 floors for prizes and notoriety. And that’s right: Contests! The two up for grabs were for best kids activity and best decorations. Originally intending to do haunted pirate-age, we switched gears to Haunted Alice in Wonderland.

I give you a chance, dear readers, to guess who put herself into knee socks, a blonde wig, and a black headband.

If you guessed yours truly, you are correct. Much to my everlasting chagrin, I put my most charming sweet innocent shy naive and unassuming self forward and got in Alice character for three hours yesterday. But this didn’t start yesterday.

Four weeks ago a small band of folks got together and charmed some cash from the higher-ups on the floor. (My higher up is the most awesome, by 250%). We committeed up and figured out games and theme and who could bring what. As the weeks crept by we had images in our head of the new Alice in Wonderland’s tea party (complete with Mad Hatter): a small pile of books in the corner of a long table, with mismatched linens and dishes, and of course, haunted items. (Did your Wonderland Tea Party include severed fingers, a skull, and some prepackaged brains? no?).  Large paper mushrooms (and 3-d ones, with the help of redecorated umbrellas), trees, flowers, bats, spiders, a small graveyard, a castle, and a red mountain circled the periphery. The movie and soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland played in the room, Jabberwocky was written on the whiteboard, and Cupcake Royale donated 200 miniature cupcakes as an exit gift. Everyone brought in mismatched chairs, we spread spanish moss over the floor (plastic first!), and developed puzzle pieces and games (bean bag toss, find the coin in the pool, and “fishing”) for small children to play in order to get to the Grand Prize — a conference room table piled with candy and the Mad Hatter.

We didn’t win.

I think.

Here’s my quandary: we didn’t win, we didn’t even place, and I honestly do not know how that is possible (we checked out other floors and agree there was only 1 that was better). Even the lady running the event isn’t sure how it’s possible. Every parent and child who walked through that room had their jaw drop, were amazed at the depth of detail, and thrilled that not only did the kids have interactive games but little prizes along the way. People, I had parents requesting me to be in pictures with their kids. I had kids and parents saying “This is just like Disneyland!”.  So yes, we didn’t win the contest.

But I haven’t seen the folks on my floor this excited about anything in a long, long time. We started decorating Thursday night at 2pm, folks got in early on a Friday to help decorate in the morning. We had volunteers for the games stations, people bringing in their GOOD dishes from home just to lend authenticity. The level of excitement and happiness and *care* on the floor was beyond anything I’ve experienced in my six plus years here.

I am personally proud of our floor.

And in my opinion, we *did* win. So there.